The World in Which We Occur: The Underground
Part of TWWWO Voice Archive
Recorded on Friday 7 October 2016 at 5pm Fotograf Festival #6 Praha
Speakers: Anna Tsing, Kai Bosworth, Stuart McLean
Beneath tangible material structures are invisible territories whose infinitesimal processes rule the metabolic circuitry of our ecosystems. Prolific bacteria sojourn in the depths of glacial caves and mycelium networks spread beyond the informational substrates captured by our eyes. Future organisms incubate inthe underground, while matter faces permanent transmutation with no sense of decay. Tardean theory has taught us that the human species was forced to travel underground and invent a new way of life in the “interminable honeycomb” of the Earth. How then, should we consider the complex subterranean dimensions of geological forces, matter and energy today? Black goo. Bogs. Liquid-solid indeterminacy. How have these spheres altered our social consciousness and imaginaries?
The World in Which We Occur is an event series co-led by Margarida Mendes and Jennifer Teets, taking place live over the telephone, and formulated around questions addressed by speakers across the world. Embarking on modern day issues rooted in the history of materiality and flux as well as pertinent politically enmeshed scientific affairs shaping our world today, the series’ premise is one of interrogation and epistemic search. To date, The World in Which We Occur has hosted sessions on the core debates of the Anthropocene, pharmakons (the body and the earth as a remedy and a poison), molecular colonialism in the reign of microorganisms, grief and climate change, and states of reserve and the legality of invisible regimes. It is currently exploring resource fetishism as its primary axis for the Lisbon presentation where it will bring together voices on water politics and earth metabolisms, from the perspective of art, science, law, the humanities, and activism.
Loosely inspired by, and set in the legacy of hybrids growing out of artist James Lee Byars’ 1969 "World Question Centre," The World in Which We Occur underlines the necessity for inquiry over an assertiveness of responses. “Could you offer us a question that you feel is pertinent in regards to your own evolution of knowledge?” asks Byars at the end of the line. The World in Which We Occur unveils incentives or queries as to generate further questions to build upon. It also aims to open up other areas of knowledge and speculation stemming from the core exercise of explicating one’s relationship within the current state of nature, in an era of erratic climatic behaviors. As a curation of voices, each session departs from an assisted dialing room set in an auditorium and is shared with an audience of listeners. The sessions are outsourced in the form of a growing archive.
The speakers recorded in previous sessions include Nabil Ahmed, Carolina Caycedo, Cormac Cullinan, Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, Fran Gallardo, Lori Gruen, Clive Hamilton, Stefan Helmreich, Pedro Neves Marques, Barbara Orland, Joana Rafael, Rory Rowan, Jenna Sutela, Paulo Tavares, Etienne Turpin, Mi You, Paul N. Edwards, Peter Fend, Joyeeta Gupta, João Camargo, Ravi Agarwal.
KAI BOSWORTH is a PhD candidate in the department of Geography, Society and Environment at the University of Minnesota, where he researches how public controversy around resource extraction and transportation is changing political conceptions of land, property, and the underground. Through an examination of oil pipeline infrastructure in North America, Kai’s dissertation examines the ways in which mainstream environmentalist responses to pipeline infrastructure reinforce a liberal and populist conception of agrarian democracy. This research forms part of a broader investigation into feminist and Marxist spatial and environmental theory in the Anthropocene. Kai holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Macalester College and an M.A. in Geography from the University of Minnesota. His works have appeared in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, The Extractive Industries and Society, and Capitalism and the Earth (forthcoming from Punctum books).
ANNA TSING is professor of Anthropology at University of California, Santa Cruz. She is also Niels Bohr professor at Aarhus University in Denmark and director of Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene (AURA). Her current research follows the humble trails of mushrooms into the great economic, cultural, and ecological dilemmas of our times. She is the author of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection, and In the Realm of the Diamond Queen: Marginality in an Out-of-the-way Place, all from Princeton University Press. She has co-edited numerous volumes, most recently, with Carol Gluck, Words in Motion: Towards a Global Lexicon, from Duke University Press.
STUART MCLEAN is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He has carried out fieldwork in Ireland and the Orkney Islands. His research explores intersections between anthropology and literature and the relationship of human creativity to long term processes of environmental change, while asking what might happen to anthropology and to the humans it claims to study if it were to take seriously the other than human ‘life’ of the materials from which human worlds are fashioned. His latest book, Fictionalizing Anthropology: Encounters and Fabulations, Human and Other(forthcoming, University of Minnesota Press, Fall 2017) undertakes a comprehensive revisioning of anthropology as a mode of engaged creative practice carried forward in a world heterogeneously composed of humans and other-than-humans.
JENNIFER TEETS is a curator, writer, researcher, and occasional performer based in Paris. Her research and writing combines inquiry, sciences studies, philosophy, and ficto-critique, and performs as an interrogative springboard for her curatorial practice. She is currently exhibiting Elusive Earths III at Parallel, Oaxaca, Mexico until June 2016.
MARGARIDA MENDES is a curator, writer and activist based in Lisbon/Madrid, where she currently runs the educational platform Escuelita at Centro de Arte dos de Mayo. From 2009-16 she directed the project space The Barber Shop in Lisbon, where she hosted a programme of seminars and residencies dedicated to artistic and philosophical research. She was part of the curatorial team of the 11th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea.
Prototype Session: The Anthropocene
Session 1: The Pharmakon
Session 3: Grief and Climate Change
Session 5: Water Politics
Session 6: Earth Metabolisms